Webster Vienna Students Demonstrate Food Justice Through Volunteer Project

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professor Velasquez at lernhaus event

Webster Vienna Private University (WVPU) undergraduate psychology students gathered for an off-site volunteer project to support children from lower-income or immigrant populations.

On Nov. 25, students in Professor Sandra Velásquez’s Lifespan Development class visited Vienna’s Lernhaus, an Austrian Red Cross project that aims to provide social and educational support to at-risk children. The Webster Vienna students demonstrated recipes from a semester-long project called "The Social Justice Cookbook."

“Webster Vienna psychology degree students are emerging as experts about how food impacts psychological development," Velásquez said. "Students gain knowledge to make a case for how food can be an agent of change in cognitive, emotional and social development across the human lifespan."

Food justice means all people, from prenatal stages through end-of-life, have equal access to foods that are nutritious, affordable and climate conscious.

Along with 18 children, 11 recipes were prepared and a game of healthy versus unhealthy food Bingo was played to help educate the children about nutrition. Remarks were given by Ruth Scheel and Verena Hahn of Lernhaus and Velásquez.  

“It’s nice being here with the kids. They have a lot of energy, it’s very cute,” said Abigail Edgar, a WVPU undergraduate psychology study abroad student from Webster University in St. Louis.

The Lernhaus project supports children and young people at no cost to families.  In preparation for the event, the psychology students created "The Social Justice Cookbook," comprised of recipes based on peer-reviewed research that correspond to the nutritional needs for people in various stages of life.

The dominant food system, with its cheap, empty calories and ubiquitous fast food joints, can leave minorities, low-income communities and other disadvantaged groups undernourished and with diminished chances of a healthy life. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses can result in poor nutrition.

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